What do you do the second your eyes open in the morning? Some of us (okay, most of us) reach for our phones to scroll through email, Instagram, and Twitter until we can finally get ourselves out of bed. Others simply roll out of bed after hitting snooze a million times, and still others somehow manage to be morning workout people.
But if you’re one of the roughly three million people who struggle with an anxiety disorder in the U.S., mornings might be your most dreaded and frantic time. It’s not uncommon for anxiety symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, nervousness, and dread, to start from the second you wake up. And because of the emotional and physical effects, anxiety can often completely derail your entire day.
One small thing that can help you sidestep your symptoms, though, is a morning ritual. While a routine can be helpful for anyone looking to have a better day, for people with anxiety, having something you do each morning that either grounds you, helps you feel safe, or is simply something you look forward to can be a useful tool, explains Kristen Scarlett, MA, a New York-based licensed mental health counselor with One Medical Group.
Why? Anxiety is essentially an unstoppable cycle of worry, and if you can start the morning off on a calmer and more positive note, your chances of getting ahead of that cycle are much better, Scarlett says. In addition to doing all the things you already know you’re supposed to do (sleeping, eating your veggies, being active), a morning ritual “can greatly lower a person's anxiety level, enabling them to respond in a healthier way to the triggers they face each day,” she adds.
So what counts as a ritual? It can truly be anything. “Routines, when acted out with awareness, become rituals. Ultimately, it’s this awareness that helps anxiety,” says Saga Blane, a millennial woman in New York who’s been curating her own anti-anxiety morning routine for five years. In other words, a ritual is anything you do on a regular basis (it doesn’t need to be every day) that you do for the sole reason of connecting with an inner sense of calm. Because everyone is different and anxiety can be so personal, we spoke to seven women, including Blane, about the things that work for them. Click through for their stories. (*Some names have been changed.)